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Featured Blu-ray Review: Armageddon

April 24th, 2010

Armageddon - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

The first of two catalog titles hitting Blu-ray that I'm reviewing today, Armageddon came out in 1998 for the July 4th long weekend. It opened with more than $50 million in five days, finishing with $200 million domestically and more than $500 million worldwide. It was the biggest hit of the year. It has also been parodied relentlessly over the past 12 years, so much so that I can't remember if I've seen it, or if I've just seen so many scenes mocked so many times that it feels like I've seen the film.

For those of you who haven't seen it, the plot starts when a previously unknown asteroid the size of Texas (roughly) is discovered hurtling toward the Earth. Given its size, when it hits nothing on Earth will survive, not even microbes. NASA's plan is to send a group of astronauts to the asteroid to blow it up. Their selection of highly trained astronauts are not up to the job, so they bring in Harry S. Stamper, widely recommended as the best driller on Earth. He accepts the job, but only if he can select the rest of his team, none of which are trained astronauts.

What follows is two hours of clichés, loud sound effects, and major scientific errors.

The movie lacks any genuine tension or thrills, partly because suspension of disbelief was overloaded early and often. There are so many scientific errors in this movie it is hard to keep track. (NASA apparently does, and it's 168.) For instance, a single nuclear bomb would not put a dent in a chunk of iron that large... the thing is big enough to have its own gravitational field. Even drilling down 800 feet and hitting a natural fault line won't help. There's just not enough energy to accelerate that much mass fast enough to make a difference. Since the main plan wouldn't work, I found it hard to care about all the complications that happen along the way.

Even without the obvious scientific errors, it was impossible for me to get into the film because, simply put, this is a clumsily made movie. The roll call early in the film when Harry is putting together his team could not have been more exposition heavy. You have a testing montage, a training montage, etc. The romance between Grace Stamper and A.J. Frost was superfluous. There are two rockets going into space and early in the movie Harry explains he will lead one rocket with a few of the more well-known actors, while the group with most of the lesser known actors will be in the second rocket. Gee, I wonder if that second rocket will be destroyed? A lot of the action scenes were loud and had a lot of quick cuts, but not a lot of action. For instance, when they are slingshotting around the moon, it was supposed to be a big, dramatic, action scene. What it was in reality was a group of men pretending they were pinned into their chair, screaming while the camera shook.

One final note, the movie is not that old, but some of the special effects looked very dated. Dated special effects are a problem for a lot of movies (I recently saw Fahrenheit 451 on TV and there's a scene with the flying cops that has special effects so bad that I literally laughed out loud). However, this is forgivable most of the time, because there's more to these movies than the special effects. That's not the case here. This is a special effects movie with absolutely nothing else going for it.

The only extra on the Blu-ray is the music video for "I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing" by Aerosmith, which is not a very good song. The film does look better than I thought it would, but it is not up to the level of a recent blockbuster. Also, while the film is loud and the bass impressive, it doesn't use the surround sound speakers as much as I was expecting. Finally, $20 is too much to pay for a nearly featureless Blu-ray release.

The Verdict

Armageddon is the Revenge of the Fallen of 1998. It's big, it's loud, and it's dumb. When Rockhound started shooting up the asteroid with the mini-gun, it was so stupid I wanted my money back. I had gotten the screener for free. Congratulations, Michael Bay, you've wasted another two-and-a-half hours of my life.

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